Can't get on top of cleaning your house or office space? Clutter got you down? Cleaning up, organizing and de-cluttering your space can feel so good, it is like scratching your soul! Being able to see everything and grab everything (without digging) gives you instant power over your days and your activities. You start on top of life rather than scrounging around on the bottom, just trying to get up to see-level before you can even begin your trip to the top. You'll be far more productive, sharper and more focused if you get your personal external world in order. Why? Because letting go of the grip of excess stuff helps define where you are headed (not where you've been) and releases all the attendant emotional life that went with that stuff.
Personal clutter (not someone else’s—that is a different problem) is often associated with two issues: 1) not saying NO to enough outside ACT-ivity to get command of your inside CON-nectivity, and 2) buried personal anxiety. It is important to take a look at those underlying emotional issues before cleaning and sorting down; otherwise you may find yourself buried in excess stuff, yet again, and soon.
Maintaining the wonderful new condition of your sorting/cleaning labor is solely the result of locating a permanent place for everything. And not just any place—your optimal organizing-aim is to find prime real estate for all of your prime stuff (frequently used objects). You don't want to use prime real estate for sub-prime objects.
Thus, you'll want to store frequently used objects close to where you use them. Conversely, put infrequently used objects in more out of the way places. But make sure that in both storage places, each object is instantly observable and easily grab-able. Just because you don't use an object much doesn't mean that when you do want to retrieve it you should have to go to herculean work and wasted time digging it out to procure it.
How do you achieve this with limited space? You apply one or more of the following remedies:
A.) Pare down further
Your stuff must fit in your house. As you know, to optimally organize, you'll be wanting to find containers that fit in your shelving and drawer spaces. Accordingly, think one thought beyond that to remind yourself that your largest container is your house! We don’t have the luxury (or nightmare) of owning an infinite amount of stuff. There is a boundary to every person's material world. You begin with your own parameters. Here’s a governing principle: if it won't fit, I can't have it.
B.) Within that larger context, if there is not enough room on your in-house shelves, for easy grab-ability of all objects, do one of three things:
1) Build or buy more shelves. If you do not have enough square footage on the ground for more shelving or drawers, then go up into the air! Install one continuous shelf above your door frames and along the ceiling of each room, with L brackets underneath, as needed, just one foot down from the ceiling. Banker's boxes fit nicely in that 'ceiling' space. These large white cardboard banker's boxes can then be filled with lighter weight stuff (off season clothing, bedding, etc.) and can be labeled clearly. This newly added one foot storage area is instant, rent free space! (If you are renting a storage unit someplace, do the math. You could probably re-purchase everything in it with the composite rental fee from over a year.) So you see, if you feel cramped, you may not need a bigger house, you just may need some more shelving—at one-one-thousandth the price!
2) Consider putting some stuff in containers under beds. Buy bed leg risers to make this possible.
Now that we’ve finished tackling the practical sorting steps, let's examine your emotions in relation to clutter.
Compulsive buying (and sometimes going into debt to do it) and/or compulsive gathering can produce temporary emotional highs. To get a handle on this, examine what your emotional state is immediately prior to buying or collecting. Try to peg what stress or unresolved emotions the "high" is relieving. Identify that emotion, and embark on finding a better way to fill it.
Old habits are never beaten back by force of personal will. Self-will is no match for the bad habit's power. Bad habits are so strong, they are beaten back only by replacement. What will the new "go-to" habit be? Determine this ahead of time.
Once your home/job space is decluttered by finding and creating an exact spot for everything, there is a strong evidence (via people who have done it well) that it will actually stay decluttered.
An excessive hoarder brings items in one at a time and can't let go of them. It becomes a defeating dynamic for such a person. An excessive spender may be looking to the actual act of buying, over and over, to gain an addict's high to relieve subtle personal pain that has been caused by an unresolved dynamic.
Internal conflict can keep the would-be sorter/cleaner stuck in neutral for any one of these reasons:
1) The task seems too overwhelming. Solution: break the task into bite-sized pieces.
2) No time to do it. Solution: determine to say "NO" to other activities for a while.
3) Identity issues: "I'm just not WORTH having a clean house." Solution: remind yourself of the truth that every human being was made to enjoy order. You are no exception.
4) Perfectionism: “If I don't know the perfect place to put something, I'll do nothing.” Solution: put it somewhere, and tell yourself that you can upgrade/tweak the arrangement later.
5) Indecision: thoughts like "this is too unique, too rare, to let go." Solution: recognize that your needs are more important than a thing's needs.
6) Paralyzing grief: “I can't let go of mom's (hubby's or child's) stuff because that would feel like I was throwing him or her away.” Solution: think instead, those objects served him/her well. They were personal picks of theirs. He/she contributed to my life; now it’s time to contribute to others' lives, my way.
7) Stuck in the past? Solution: remind yourself that the past no longer exists. Your life is in the present, only. How can you well-order your life to make it less chaotic? You only get one shot at this. Life is not a dress rehearsal. It is the real deal, passing by day by day. You can't afford to be stuck.
P.S.: If the clutter is someone else’s issue, give them their own territory to do with as they will. Let them observe your joy over creating your own neatness. Inspiration happens in a person's wake as they speed pass, never by attempting to "whip" the other person into shape.